E. Chris Ambrose writes knowledge inspired adventure fiction including the Bone Guard archaeological thrillers, and interactive superhero novel, Skystrike: Wings of Justice for Choice of Games. In the process of researching her books, Chris learned how to hunt with a falcon, clear a building of possible assailants, and pull traction on a broken limb. Chris's adventures have included rock climbing in Colorado, diving on the Great Barrier Reef, horseback riding in Mongolia, searching for tigers in India, and going behind the scenes at the Papal Palace in Avignon. Who know what could happen next? Learn more about Chris and her books at her website.
While I'm researching for a novel, looking into the historical times and places that will provide the backbone for the modern-day adventure, I keep an eye out for cool coincidences as well as exciting locations that would make great settings for scenes in the novel. For The Fascist Frame, the latest book in my Bone Guard Archaeological Adventure Series, I found both—in the Volkspark Friedrichschain, Berlin, Germany.
This lovely public park, complete with duck pond, features two hills, the larger of which is named Grosserbunkerberg. (photo from Wikimedia, by Lukas Beck, used under Creative Commons) Those readers who know a bit of German, or how the German language constructs names, will already be suspicious. "Grosserbunkerberg" roughly translates to "big bunker mountain," because, in spite of its pleasant, winding trails and grassy slopes, this isn't a natural hill at all, but the remains of a World War II fortification and shelter known as a Flak Tower.
Around 1940, the Third Reich wanted to defend both the capital city, and its residents from allied attack. A circuit of giant, concrete towers were constructed in key locations. Each location featured a smaller, round command tower where spotters and radar arrays would watch for aircraft and relay orders, and a larger rectangular tower, with walls up to 11 feet thick, supporting anti-aircraft weapons on top, with facilities to shelter ten thousand civilians, including a hospital and living quarters.
There is some excellent archival footage of a flyover from just after the war. The Flak Tower comes onscreen around 3:07, and you get a sense for how enormous these facilities really were, especially after seeing the palaces, churches and apartments around it.
The Flak towers of Friedrichschain sheltered a completely different sort of refugees: the contents of the nearby Kaiser Friedrich Museum, over 300 sculptures and 400 paintings, including works by Caravaggio and Botticelli. When fire broke out in the Flak Tower in May, 1945, these art treasures were destroyed.
Or were they? Looting likely accounts for some of the losses, and the only items from the museum ever recovered consist of sculptural elements turned up in construction trenches dug nearby in the 2000s.
Toward the end, the towers were staffed not by members of the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force, but by the boys of the Hitler Youth. After the war, most of the Flak Towers were destroyed by the allies, often requiring multiple bombing runs and eventual demolition from the inside. The British grew notoriously frustrated with their attempts to destroy the tower at the Berlin Zoo and finally brought it down with dynamite. Another tower in Austria remains and has been turned into a climbing wall.
The rectangular tower at Friedrichschain, which housed the museum's collection, was partially destroyed, filled and became the hill at the heart of the Volkspark; however, some of the remains can still be seen above ground. (image from Wikimedia, from the Bundesarchiv)
When I learned about the concealment of the art works at the Flak Tower, I was fascinated by this collision of art history with the reality of war. I knew that location would somehow feature in my book.
The Fascist Frame
A Bone Guard Archaeological Thriller, Book 5
A stolen library,
an old adversary,
a league of warriors lying in wait…
When they receive a package from the Warden—the old-school Nazi whose hirelings nearly killed Grant in Arizona—Bone Guard founder Grant Casey is surprised it's not a bomb but a job offer. The Warden holds the clue to a stash of Italian artworks stolen by the Nazis, which includes a thousand-year-old library stolen from the Jews of Rome. Trouble is, the stash has been tapped to raise money for the Gladio, a secret anti-Communist army established after WWII.
D.A. talks the Bone Guard into taking the job, but how do you know whom to trust when the Nazis write your paycheck? The Gladio leader wants his treasure, the Bone Guard wants to save the library—and the Warden's not saying what she's really after. A young historian helps them sort out the clues, from a ruined town to a buried Flak Tower, but they're completely unprepared for what they find…
When betrayal comes, even Grant can't brace for impact. The Bone Guard returns in their most dangerous adventure yet!